Riley's package of legislation would restrict gifts and entertainment for public officials, bring more disclosure to campaign contributions, and stop legislators from having second jobs in state government. It comes after scandals that resulted in convictions or guilty pleas by three legislators and that left two current legislators and three lobbyists facing trial on corruption charges.
"You are about to see a sea change in the way lobbyists and legislators interact," the lame-duck Republican governor said at a news conference announcing the special session.
Republican Gov.-elect Robert Bentley ran on an ethics platform that included calling a special session in March, but he supported Riley's call for a special session now.
"Once we get this behind us, we can all devote our full attention to creating jobs and putting the people of Alabama back to work," he said while visiting Washington.
Riley's proposals would:
n Require lobbyists to file public reports online about all their spending on public officials and public employees. Lobbyists currently file reports only if they exceed $250 in one day.
n Limit gift-giving by lobbyists and others to public officials and public employees to no more than $25 on one occasion and no more than $100 in a year. Riley said that would eliminate fancy meals at high-end restaurants and free tickets to the Auburn-Alabama football game.
n Enhance investigations by the State Ethics Commission by allowing it to subpoena witnesses and records.
n Ban pass-through pork, where legislators have agreements with state agencies to let them control part of the money placed in the agencies' budgets.
n Outlaw the transfer of money between political action committees, which has been used to hide the original source of campaign contributions.
n Ban "double dipping" by legislators, who would not be able to have jobs in the executive or judicial branches of state government or in public education, including K-12 schools and higher education. Currently, the only ban is on working in two-year colleges.
n Mandate ethics training for elected officials and public employees.
Jim Sumner, the nonpartisan director of the State Ethics Commission, called Riley's bills "the platinum level of ethics reform."
"We will easily have the best ethics law in the country if we enact this package as written," he said.
Riley has offered similar proposals of his bills in past sessions and seen them die in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. His proposals follow the "Handshake with Alabama" platform that Republican legislative candidates used to win a majority in both houses in the election Nov. 2. The special session will be Riley's first opportunity to work with a GOP majority.
Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said the governor and Republican legislators leaders did not consult Democrats about their package, so the Democratic caucus plans to put together its own ethics bills to offer.
"The Democratic caucus looks forward to passing some of the strongest ethics laws in the nation," he said.
House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said, "We're ready to move on ethics reform. We want to make sure they go far enough."
The special session next week will be the first since 1942 where an outgoing governor has called a new Legislature into special session. That's possible because Riley doesn't turn over the governor's office to Bentley until Jan. 17, but legislators took office shortly after their election Nov. 2.
The Republican majority's new leaders said they are eager to pass Riley's plan.
"This could easily prove to be the most important legislative session in generations," House Speaker-designate Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said.